Published on: September 22, 2016
This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.
Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
It seems to me that more than ever, especially as competition gets more intense, retailers have to assert themselves in the customer experience. That experience, it seems to me, has to be more specific and more differentiated than ever. And retailers don't only have to take responsibility for it, but they have to embrace the moments as opportunities.
This came to mind for me recently when I read two stories that seemed to run contrary to my feelings about this ...
First, a New York Times story saying that there are some hotels out there that seemed to be taking a page from the airlines' book, deciding that if they can get a fee for something, they're going to do their best to get a fee for something.
According to the story, "New research from the Jonathan M. Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism at New York University indicates that hotels in the United States will tack on $2.55 billion in fees this year" — the highest amount since the center began tracking them 16 years ago.
An example - free in-room coffee. When I'm traveling, I really like the idea of being able to make myself a cup of coffee when I get up early in the morning to do MNB, or to keep myself when I'm working late at night. But now, some hotels apparently have decided that they rig up in-room coffee machines so that the customer gets charged a couple of extra bucks for each cup of coffee.
Now, this strikes me as petty ... and my inclination would be to avoid any hotel chain that institutes such a policy. This is where I apply the Jurassic Park rule - just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do something. A cup of coffee can't cost that much, guests have gotten used to getting it for nothing, and all such a fee does is irritate the customer.
I was recently staying at the Acme Hotel in Chicago, where they didn't have an in-room coffee pot ... but they delivered a thermos full of hot coffee to the room in the morning, which was great. And no charge. Now, that's what I call taking responsibility for creating a better customer experience. I'd go back there in a second.
There was another Times story the other day about an airline that has, you'll excuse the pun, missed the boat.
The story was about how American Airlines has a new advertising campaign in which it says that it "would really, really appreciate it if you could ask before raising the window shade, and if you could not hog the armrest. Also, be nice to the flight attendants when they greet you." Basically, the campaign takes the position that we, as fliers, are responsible for the quality of our flying experience, and it would work out better for everyone if we'd take our responsibilities seriously.
Give me a break.
I fly a lot. More than two million miles over the course of my career. (Not exactly George Clooney / Up In The Air territory, but not bad.) And when I travel, I try to be friendly to the flight attendants, courteous to my fellow passengers, only store my stuff in the luggage bin above my seat, never bring too many carry-ons, and generally behave like a responsible, civil human being.
Now, if I were not such a person, I suspect that no amount of advertising would make me change my behavior. And all the ads make me think is that American Airlines, being generally unsuccessful at creating a positive flight experience, has decided to make passengers responsible.
I'm sorry, but I think based on the fact that I'm actually paying for my ticket, paying all sorts of exorbitant fees, and putting up with the inconveniences that often accompany flying these days, maybe American Airlines ought to treat me like a guest, not an interloper who is more likely than not going to inconvenience them.
This goes for every customer-facing experience. You take responsibility for it, you embrace it as an opportunity, and you say to yourself, how can I prove to customers than I'm loyal to them?
That's what's on my mind on this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: